Narrow escape for Odia women footballers

Bhubaneswar: Five Odia women footballers including former captain of Indian football team Shraddhnajli Samantray narrowly escaped from a strong earthquake of 7.9 magnitude on Richter scale that rocked Nepal today.

Sources said, the four players- Janaki Murmu, Iva Panna, Banya Kabiraj and Shanti Murmu were in the 18-member under-14 girls national team to play in the AFC South-central regional competition in Kathmandu. Samantray was the deputy coach of the team.

They were practicing in the stadium for the third-place play-off against Iran when the earthquake shook the venue and adjoining areas. The Indian team had earlier lost to hosts Nepal in the semifinals yesterday.

“We were doing the practice just before the start of the third place play-off against Iran and then we saw the stadium shaking. There were hundreds of people there to watch the match. We ran to the middle of the pitch and remained there as we saw buildings collapse in the adjoining areas. It was a real scary moment for us,” coach Maymol Rocky told PTI from Kathmandu.

“These girls are not even 14 and they have not experienced this kind of scary moment in their lives,” she added.

Shaken by the tremors, the Indian girls as well as the Iranians reached the team hotel and decided to sleep in open space inside the hotel premises and not in their rooms.

“The place is still having aftershocks even now and the girls are scared to sleep in their rooms inside the hotel. We are staying outside the hotel but inside its compound in the open space tonight. The hotel staff is kind enough to provide us food and sleeping material. There is also no electricity outside. We know we will not be able to sleep tonight. The girls are really scared and want to go back home immediately,” she said.

Rocky said that the team manager Sapna has spoken to Indian embassy people but they have asked the players to come to the Kathmandu airport so that they can be airlifted by military planes sent by India. The players were originally to board a flight for India tomorrow.

“The Kathmandu airport is closed now for commercial flights. Our manager has spoken to embassy people but they told her to come up to the airport so that we can be airlifted by the military aircraft sent from India,” she said.

“We may need security and some people to take us there at the airport. We cannot go alone to the airport. So I think we have to wait till tomorrow morning,” she added.

An AIFF official here said that the team will be brought back to India tomorrow by the military aircraft.